Monday, November 30, 2009

New Residential Skyscraper for the West Loop

This project has been floating around for a short while now, but we're starting to see signs that things are getting serious with 108 North Jefferson Street.

The 34-story apartment block is ready to go before the Chicago Plan Commission.  It's a fairly typical Chicago building:  304 residences sitting on a parking garage podium.  While it's not a stand out building, it's certainly light years better than what's there now:  Yet another surface parking lot.

We first mentioned 108 North Jefferson in September of 2008, and again in February of 2009.  Since then it's been scaled down a little bit -- from 41 stories to 34, and from 311 residences to 304.

I've heard some people complaining that this project doesn't offer any ground floor retail, but I think they're mistaken.  On the planning documents I've seen there are clearly designated retail spaces on Jefferson Street.  Not much, maybe one or two shops could fit in there, but to say there is no retail element is a falsehood.

For you height junkies -- the roof will be at 352 feet and one inch (352.08 feet).  The total building height will be 373 feet, seven inches (373.58 feet).

And because we're all so eco-conscious these days, there will be a 9,200-square-foot green roof, and the entire project is going to basic LEED certification.

Those of you who love reading the nitty-gritty of these sorts of things will enjoy the public documents on it:

Status Update: 235 Van Buren

235 Van Buren (235 West Van Buren Street) looks pretty much done.  All of the oddly spaced balconies give it a great texture and interesting visual appeal.  it's like Aqua, but without the curves or the hype.

Slice of Life: Memories of Summer

A suburban ice cream company had a brilliant idea this past summer.  It sent a couple of old-fashioned ice cream trucks to prowl Michigan Avenue.  The wave of nostalgia was too much to resist for some tourists who felt their hearts beat like children again as they rushed to greet the ice cream man.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

No Spike In Dead People In Chicago's Gold Coast

A proposal to turn the amazing old, yet somehow still abandoned, Three Arts Club Building into a columbarium is off.

For those of you not up to speed on the proposal, columbarium is a fancy word for a mausoleum where the ashes of the dead are kept.  Mausoleum is a fancy word for dead people warehouse.

At the beginning of November we reported on a proposal to fill the Three Arts Building with the deceased. It seemed like a perfect use.  No noise; minimal traffic; a respectful use of a beautiful building.  But it looks like it's not going to happen, as a letter from the person behind the project makes clear:

Hopefully the Three Arts Building will find new life among the living.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Park District to Burn Lincoln Park

Bad things happen in nature.  The cute and fuzzy are eaten by the ugly and toothy.  Sometimes the cutest penguin gets left behind.  And every once in a while Mother Nature sets things on fire.

The Chicago Park District has worked hard to restore patches of the city's parks to what they used to be -- Illinois prairie.  In the hum and thrush of summer they are fascinating places to sit and watch nature at work.  But as poet Bonnie Eldred noted, "Mother Nature is a bitch."

In the natural world she occasionally takes our her frustration on the prairie in the form of a prairie fire.  It's frightening and chaotic when it's happening, but in the long run it is cleansing and cathartic for the ecosystem.  And in the District's quest to really go the extra mile in simulating a natural environment in downtown Chicago, something's gotta burn.

Those things are the recreated prairies along the edge of Lincoln Park's north pond.  The exact date for this year's burn hasn't been set, but it's expected to happen before the end of the year depending on weather conditions.

Though I love the smell of a good wood fire, I don't know what a prairie fire smells like.  I don't think the neighbors are going to be too happy with it.  But the Park Department does have an entire web page about why burning is a good thing.  You can read it here: Unfortunately, it hasn't been updated in seven years.

Here's the summary about this year's burn from the public notice:

The Chicago Park District uses controlled burn management to help maintain native plant communities.  A controlled burn is the use of fire as a management tool in a carefully planned and controlled manner.  Controlled burn management is an efficient and economical tool that reduces the amount of pesticides that otherwise may be needed to control invasive plants. Fire helps promote species diversity by controlling invasive woody shrubs and trees.  Without fire, natural areas often become thickets of shrubs or weeds with little diversity.  Fire burns off dead vegetation and stimulates new plant growth by allowing sunlight to warm the dark soil, encouraging germination. Fire also enriches the soil by returning nutrients back to the soil.
Research shows that fire is a natural part of native Illinois ecosystems.  These landscapes need to be burned periodically in order to stay healthy and to provide habitat for native plants and animals.
All persons who conduct controlled burns are specially trained, equipped, and supervised. The fire department has been notified and all permits have been obtained to do this work.

So, Lincoln Park is officially on burn notice.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Block 37: What Stores Are Coming And When

I had an opportunity to wander around a small part of Block 37 a few days ago.  Even though most of it is still a vast construction zone, I can easily say that it looks really nice.

The atrium in the center is beautiful, light and airy even on a rainy day.  Everything is shiny and new, and the whole place has that new mall smell.

The pedway connection between the Red and Blue Line subways is open as is one store, but many others look like they could open any day.  Here's a list of the stores that should be open in time for you to do some Christmas shopping:

  • Always Cellular
  • Anthropologie
  • Au Bon Pain
  • Auntie Anne's
  • Beard Papa's
  • Clearwire
  • dom itp
  • Gateway Newstands
  • GNC
  • Godiva Chocolatier
  • L'Occitane en Provence
  • Premium Skin Care
  • Puma
  • Royale
  • Sabon
  • Starfruit
  • Steve Madden (already open)
  • Sunglass Hut
  • Swarovski
  • Zara

Some of them, like Swarovski, Au Bon Pain, Anthropologie, and Auntie Anne's pretzels looked ready to go -- they just needed some stock.  Others, like Starfruit and Puma were deep in the throes of construction.

Here's a list of what's coming soonish (think 2010):
  • Accent Chicago
  • Akira Chicago
  • Alternatives Shoes
  • Bigsby & Kruthers
  • Bleeding Heart Bakery
  • Claudia Kleiner Malabar
  • ComicVault
  • iCandylicious
  • Ladies & Gentlemen
  • Local Charm
  • Michelle Tan
  • Rosa Mexicano
  • Sephora
  • Simply Thalia
  • Spirit of the City
  • Which Wich

There's also supposed to be a restaurant from the Lettuce Entertain You group, but which one hasn't been announced yet.

You've probably noticed that a lot of the places named are eateries.  You're right, and most of them are in the pedway section.  It makes sense, because even though Mayor Daley has done pretty much everything in his power to turn State Street into a 24-hour shopping destination, the fact remains that the only way for most retailers in the Loop to survive is to cater to the itinerant suburban commuter crowd.  It's just a fact of life.

You may also have noticed that this is the third Sephora store within one mile.  There's the one at Water Tower Place (845 North Michigan Avenue), the one at The Shops at North Bridge (520 North Michigan Avenue "The Nordstrom Mall"), and now one at Block 37.  It's precisely one mile from Block 37 to Water Tower Place.

Also worth noting -- Block 37 is now using the address 1 West Randolph Street.  108 North State is a thing of the past.

TweetEcho: November 9-November 24, 2009

For those of you who don't subscribe to our Twitter feed, here are the items we tweeted in the last week or so:

  1. After losing its store to Mont Blanc expansion at 900 North Michigan, Lalique is coming back to Chicago next month:
  2. Wandered around inside Block 37 today. It's going to be very nice when it's done. Still only Steve Madden open now.
  3. Lake Point Tower's roof park wins #1 in the highrise category of Mayor Daley's Landscape Awards, (via @LakePointTower)
  4. "Chicago symbolises all that’s great about the USA." The (London) Mirror:
  5. The Chicago Plan Commission approved three new hotels for River North. Here's our article:
  6. Block 37 is open. Sorta. Steve Madden and the pedway. More to follow:
  7. On this date in 1875: Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago opened to the public:
  8. The Michigan Avenue Swarovski store grand opening is today.
  9. Plans to build an island in the shape of the word "Chicago" in Lake Michigan:
  10. The Christmas tree at the Shops at 900 North Michigan puts the official Chicago tree to shame:
  11. News to me: You can now adopt an historic Chicago artifact. And it's tax deductible!
  12. Lincoln Park's south pond is just a mudhole now:
  13. Have you seen the building in River North that has the alphabet bricks up its front?
  14. Did you know that SIX stations in Chicago have storefront studios? And a seventh is coming:
  15. Video and pictures: What it's like on the wrong side of the glass at the John Hancock Center:
  16. Testers in downtown Chicago and Evanston are needed for our new iPhone web app. Please e-mail
  17. Sign of the times: Two Trump units are in foreclosure:
  18. On this date in 1849: The parish that would become Holy Name Cathedral was founded (160 years ago!)
  19. Winter has been delayed! The Millennium Park ice skating rink won't open until Friday because of the rain.
  20. A change in the way buildings are measured bumps Chicago's Trump Tower up to 6th tallest in the world:
  21. @RAWardFlooring They speak English, but no one has the authority to do anything except read you your balance.
  22. What's up with John Cusack? He was a dick to Dean Richards on WGN-TV, and in Michigan Ave. Mag. You're not that big a deal!
  23. Two hours, 30 minutes on hold with Chase. Nine operators, six transfers, two supervisors. Just trying to update my information.
  24. Been on hold with Chase bank for one hour and 49 minutes so far. It's as bad as the old Wamu days.
  25. If you haven't seen it, here's what Chicago's new scaled-down Christmas tree looks like:
  26. Don't forget to check out the 1,700+ photos from 52 members in our Chicago photo pool:
  27. @thePropertyDiva I'm not getting near any swine flu victims. I'm easily infected. You wouldn't believe the things I've picked up in Asia.
  28. A little birdie says a new jewelry store is going to open at Water Tower Place. Anyone know anything about it?
  29. Neacafé is giving away free coffee at Millennium Park right now.
  30. This is what happens when the landscaping gets out of control:
  31. It's not Chicago, but it's still one of our favorite buildings: Tokyo's Golden Poop:
  32. WWD reports today that part of Block 37 could open BEFORE Thanksgiving. Sorry, no link -- print only.
  33. There will soon be FIVE chocolate shops within two blocks of the Chicago Water Tower:
  34. New series on Discovery Channel: "Cook County Jail" 11/19 at 7pm Chicago time.
  35. @Chicagoist No coffee cup is worth $36, I don't care what city's flag is on it.
  36. Please don't squat in the middle of State Street:
  37. Just a month before opening, the Gold Coast's Elysian Hotel is dropping the hotel-condo part:
  38. Anyone else notic that the crown of One Museum Park East ( is all lit up in blue now? Is that new?
  39. Dumb: People waiting @ Spertus lobby for the Northerly Island meeting. The elevators aren't programmed to go to the 9th floor after hours.
  40. The ice skating rink at Millennium Park (in front of the Bean) opens next Wednesday (November 18th).
  41. Chicago ranks #22 in the 2009 Global Power Cities index:
  42. Not Lincoln Park or the South Loop -- Chicago's coolest townhouse is in Chinatown!
  43. Interesting article in today's New York Times about the work being done at the Chicago Botanic Garden:
  44. Fantastic old photos of Chicago's New East Side. Amazing to see how much the city has changed since the 70's:
  45. Another mystery in River North. Can you shed any light on the strange Clark Street address?
  46. Just got an e-mail from one of our contribs: The new Lululemon at Rush and Walton Streets opens Friday, November 13th.
  47. Crain's reports that Baccarat is bailing on its not-yet-open Oak Street location after spending $2m on renovations.
  48. The cinderblock shell that's supposed to be Chicago's newest museum might actually get built after all: